Set to feature Lakers superstar LeBron James, "Space Jam 2" is generating a level of excitement among the NBA community. An ode and callback to 1997's film with Michael Jordan, this sequel has long been anticipated, and there may be no better person to star in it than James, who is widely seen as Jordan's successor.
And while optimism continues to rain for the film, it's already coming with a few controversies.
Pepe Le Pew, a skunk who was part of the original "Space Jam" cast, has been cut from the film.
One familiar character will be staying in the locker room: Sources at Warner Bros. have said that amorous cartoon skunk, Pepé Le Pew, will not be featured in the upcoming film, which is set to premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16. In fact, the controversial character — who made his first appearance in 1945 — seems to be permanently retired from the Looney Tunes canon. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has no plans to feature Pepé in any other feature films or the new Looney Tunes cartoon series currently streaming on HBO Max.
The move is a reaction to the accusations that Pepe is part of a group of characters that normalizes "rape culture."
In a March 3 column praising the Seuss estate for their decision, New York Times Opinion writer Charles M. Blow listed Pepé Le Pew among a trio of animated characters from his childhood — including fellow Looney Tune Speedy Gonzalez and Tom and Jerry's Mammy Two Shoes — that have aged poorly. Blow specifically criticized Pepé as having "normalized rape culture," for his vintage animated antics, which involved him relentlessly pursuing a black female cat, Penelope Pussycat, who he repeatedly confused for a skunk mate. The writer later continued his argument on Twitter, citing multiple examples from Looney Tunes cartoons. "This helped teach boys that “no” didn’t really mean no," Blow wrote.
Pepe's "cancellation" is part of a growing and controversial movement in today's society, in which stamping out statements that offend a certain group of people is being normalized.
It's not known whether or not LeBron James had anything to do with the decision, but it wouldn't be all that surprising. Considering his stance on today's social climate, it's not hard to see him getting on board with the movement.
All-in-all, no matter your feelings, it's probably not worth getting worked up for a cartoon skunk. Still, this latest "scandal" is just a sign of the times, and a signal that not even something as innocent as Space Jam is immune from conflict.